Sparrow’s Grace (poem)

SPARROW’S GRACE
for Edith and Nancy
(from 2008, reedited)

I.

They’ve got me roped by my little hand.
They’re leading me through the big warehouse.
They’re slipping my hand in a white loop.
They’re tethering me to everyone in a line.
They’re walking me across the cold concrete,
slipping my hand in a white loop.

They’re calling to end Gilbertville, Iowa.
They’re ending Captain Crunch and cushion forts.
They’re telling me Grandma’s just died.
They’re talking to my mother about it first.
They’re keeping them both from me now,
talking to my mother first.

They’re confusing fields with dreams.
They’ve got me by the hand with the white rope.
They’re slipping Grandma out of her white bed.
They’re slipping my hand in a white loop.
They’re showing me what it’s like to be choked,
slipping Grandma out of the white bed.

They’ve bought me a trinket Model-T truck.
They’ve bought me this plastic change-holder.
They’ve left me alone in the hallway.
They’re keeping my hands tied with rope.
They’ve done me some kind of favor,
keeping my hands looped alone.

They’re driving me home on the yellow bus.
They’re keeping me from talking to my mom.
They’re making her feel it’s all her fault.
They’re scared because we aren’t crying.
They know we began the day rough, and they’re
very scared we aren’t crying.

II

They’re telling me Grandma’s just died.
They’re scared because we aren’t all crying.
They’re keeping my hands in the loop.
They’ve got me tied up with white rope.
They’re confusing fields with dreams,
scared because we aren’t crying.

They’re leaving me in the new cornfield.
They’re thinking it’s really a field-trip.
They’re trying to keep me from nightmares.
They’re dressed in flat orange suits.
They’re glaring their eyes black like cameras,
thinking it’s really a field-trip.

They’re telling me Grandma’s dead.
They’re telling me Grandma’s just died.
They’re already forgetting her fake teeth.
They’re stealing her from her white bed.
They’re telling me Grandma’s just died,
stealing her from the white bed.

No more soft painting, no eagles.
No more hiding cockroaches.
There’s birds of starvation in her feeders now.
No way back to Waterloo.
There’s a leaky memory of sorrow,
hovering over her white bed.

They’re going to divvy up Grandma.
They’re going to keep recipies and paintings.
They’re going to throw out the white bed.
They’re going to cry and sell the house.
They’re looking at me, asking what I want,
going to divvy up Grandma.

No more soft painting, no eagles.
They’re telling me Grandma’s just died.
They’re already forgetting her fake teeth.
They’re leaving me in the new cornfield.
They’re wondering why I’m not crying,
going to divvy up Grandma.

III.

I felt the worse for my mother. She’d gone
with Grandma to Branson to listen to music and
cross the country roads in between. They’d taken
an old bus to get there. But Grandma got sick
through all of it. Grandma was Mom’s mother-
in-law, so guilt began piling on over the years
like black to cancer. In years, we all would have it.

I felt the worse for my mother. Grandma got ill
half way through the trip and she couldn’t help
but think it was her fault. How did she dare
bring the raining in so close? The way you’ll stand
over-looking a tornado storm wondering how
you could be so kind to everyone but yourself.

I felt the worse for my mother. Breast cancer
had come to Grandma in the past. Her last sleep
came peacefully—a scene she’d painted many times
around me. She knew the white canvas beneath
colors never stopped being white. It only looked
changed. But it was very hard to change it back.

I felt the worse for my mother. She didn’t want
any of Grandma’s things. Her parents were dead
before her son was born. I wonder if she knew
she would be going soon, too, back to the white
space between. I wonder if that little boy knew
that someday every color would change back.

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